These tips offer the most useful ways of making the virus work for you.
We are not ignorant of the massive economic and social changes the world is going through. But we also know that feelings of powerlessness in the face of these changes are going to make it much, much worse.
Our aim here is the simple but important one of putting you in charge of your responses. Rather than offering you ways to react to the crisis we are promoting ways to make you proactive and connected. Yes – it is possible to emerge from this crisis stronger than before. That might seem impossible now but put the following into action and you may be surprised.
- Exercise. Self-isolation isn’t a license to slump out in front of the tv. This is an opportunity to get into shape and in so doing generate the endorphins that will give you the energy to fight illness, strengthen your immune system and boost your mood. You need not go mad but seven minutes a day with the free app ‘7’ (for example) will offer you enough of an intense cardiac workout to form a bridge to do more running or walking for example. This will also help you to appreciate your body as it becomes once again something for you rather than a machine in service to the needs of others.
- Have a plan. Part of the business of getting stronger and clearer is making a plan for the day. Research indicates that structuring your use of time gives you a sense of control. Rather than being told what to do or being pushed into panic write down what you want to do and go through this list as the day proceeds. Ticking off tasks will give you a sense of achievement and the feeling of ownership of your life which will buffet your from streams of irresponsible media gossip.
- Make contact. Its tough to be stuck indoors but that doesn’t mean you have to self-isolate from your social world. By all means contact existing friendship groups but don’t rely on these – they have their own stuff going on. A kind way to make contact work is to reach out to two people a day you haven’t contacted for a while. Whether you call, messages or send emails doesn’t really matter. What does matter is your kind intention. Do your best not to off-load on them but try to become an active listener. It will take you out of your worries. The very fact that someone is hearing them will make these contacts extremely grateful. And while we’re on the subject –
- Deepen your gratitude. Research conducted in the last twenty years has found that feelings of gratitude can make a huge difference to our day. We get a chemical lift from feeling grateful and furthermore it offers us a fundamental connection to others. One of the best ways of developing this is to go through your days thinking of all the things you are grateful for – cups of tea, talking with others, something you’ve eaten etc. The trick here is not to compare or criticise these experiences but just to dwell on their sensual qualities. Try this at night – its a great way to bring body and mind together at a time when you really need to rest.
- Meditate. You’ll be aware of the recent fashion for meditation and mindfulness but for a lot of people this will seem like an irresponsible response to the crisis: it’s not. Meditation is a very useful way of getting in touch with your autonomic nervous system. But work your way into it – a few minutes a day is enough to get you started. Experiment with this by noticing how you feel during the day – not immediately after. You can ‘garnish’ your meditation with contemplative work – like dwelling on pictures or experiences in a reflective, mindful way. What we’re after here is a calmer frame of mind and a gentler more attentive relationship to the body.
- Limit your media intake. The continual stream of information about the crisis is destabilising people. Mainstream media argue that they are just providing information for citizens but the truth is that the information quotient is a very small part of the fevered dramas they are selling you. Their real aim is to involve you in emotional stories which serve to deepen your connection to them and enfeeble you. Please remember that the media exist primarily to profit from your anxiety. They are a virus themselves designed to infiltrate your consciousness. Design a brief ten minute intake and do not take them at their word.
- Allow your emotions. A lot of people – often men – do all they can to disallow their emotions: acknowledging emotional responses is seen as unmanly and not useful. This will have to change. Anyone who claims not to find this situation frightening is living in some sort of remote bubble: it is scary and unlike anything we have seen before. But pushing responses underground will not banish them – it will make them emerge in unknown, unpredictable and possibly unpleasant ways. We strongly advise that you accept feelings of being frightened and anxious so that you can face them. This is absolutely not a recommendation that you dwell on these feelings. Our guide here is far more proactive than that but we don’t recommend unrealistic machismo fronting. Lets acknowledge that it’s ok to be scared. But now you crack on with your plan.
- Laugh. Apart from the fact that a good laugh exercises all the muscle groups it also helps generate valuable chemical responses to lift your mood. Now is the time to start exploring all those humorous avenues – books, podcast, tv sitcoms etc that you’ve previously only snatched a moment for. Share your tips for good comedy online – its a happy version of sharing the love and kindness that we all need at this time.
- Watch your thinking – and let it go. In these uncertain times it’s easy to go back to a time when the world seemed comfortably predictable and you could look forward to a full fridge and holidays to come. But when your mind travels back and forth it takes you away from the only time we really have – which is now. This is not some kind of airy-fairy mysticism – it’s the absolute truth. Living in the past or the future is doing you no good at all. Concentrate all of your senses on being here now and giving your attention to what’s in front of you – not what isn’t. It’s worth noting that the most important quality children respond to is attention – this is worth far more than anything you might want to buy them. It’s this quality of being attended to which will make them confident and better able to go forward with you.
- Design a project. This is a grand title but what we mean by this is developing a project that will carry you through the weeks ahead. This could be writing or drawing or scrapbooking or DIY. The most important characteristic of this work should be that its down to you and is not determined by outside factors. This is a time to get better at self reliance and looking after yourself and those closest to you. Your project – integrated into the plan mentioned above -will give a focus to your day and keep you focused on the present – the only time we have.
It would be unusual not to be overwhelmed by constant news about the virus – especially when it’s presented with the most colourful and dramatic language imaginable. But reflect on your experience. Is your consumption of these headlines and dramas serving you or weakening you? This is a time to develop an inner strength and self-care that will serve you and others in going forward.
We wish you well.